The second leg of my Florida trip took me back to Amelia Island for another shot at catching some redfish on a fly rod with Capt. Jeff Crumpton, a friend of mine that I fished with back in June. Previously we did not do very well on the redfish or puppy drum as they are also called, but I had to return for revenge on these copper colored fish with the spotted tail.
I think redfish are my favorite saltwater fish to pursue with a fly rod - they are readily available in the inshore waters from North Carolina to Texas and take a variety of flies, lures, and bait. They like to feed on flats and in shallow water around oyster beds, marshes, flats, and about anywhere else that holds bait, and you can usually approach them close enough for a 50 -60 foot cast with enough stealth.
When I arrived in Amelia Island Jeff was just getting off the water with some clients who had done well catching redfish on live bait, Jeff said the bite had been pretty good earlier and we should have some shots at fish. After one of those afternoon Florida thunderstorms passed, we could not have asked for better conditions. The tide was going out forcing the redfish to exit the marsh and grass flats where they had been feeding on crabs and shrimp. The wind had died and the conditions were about perfect for fly-casting. We didn't go far from the dock because of the storms in the area but we didn't need to, across from the dock was a large marsh island with numerous creeks draining the flat with oyster bars running along the edges and a deep channel about fifty yards from the edge of the oysters.
When we got to the bank the water was still up in the grass but falling fast and we could see bait everywhere, shrimp and baitfish were hugging the grassy edges trying to avoid the game fish leaving the marsh and looking for a quick meal before dropping into deeper water. Occasionally we would hear a feeding fish or see a large push of water as a fish charged some type of bait and as the tide drained more water from the flat, we saw more and more fish activity. Jeff would use the trolling motor to position me for a cast into the creek mouths and I felt confident eventually we would connect with one of the nice reds leaving the flat through the creeks.
After having a couple shrimp patterns ignored Jeff tied on a little chartreuse mullet imitation just as we saw a nice push of water at the mouth of a small creek where it emptied and formed a small pool surrounded by oyster bars and a small grassy point. I was on the casting platform Jeff has installed on his boat for fly-fishing which raises the angler an extra foot or so above the deck for sight fishing. My first cast was a little off the mark and landed to the left of the red as he crashed another morsel of bait as my fly hit the water. I lifted the line off the water with the eight-weight rod Jeff was kind enough to let me use and fired another cast into the small pool, tight against the back edge where it met the grass. I made two or three quick strips and held on as I saw the fish turn and with a big push of water, the redfish turned on the small fly and wham! With a quick strip strike, I was hooked solidly into a hard charging red, at first he could not figure out how to exit the small basin he was in, thrashing the water back and forth in an area not much larger than a pickup truck and only a foot deep. I lifted the rod high to prevent the fish from catching the line on the oysters and breaking off as Jeff cranked the trolling motor to back us away from the bank. Once the fish found the small creek channel that made a cut through the oysters it raced through the cut creating a rooster tail in its wake.
Redfish are very powerful, fight like a bulldog on steroids, and once hooked feel much larger than they actually are, but the drag kept the fish under control as he surged for the deep water of the main channel. After a few minutes, I could feel the fish starting to tire and was able to regain some of the line he took and a couple minutes after that Jeff landed the beautiful six-pound redfish by gently rolling it onto its side and lifting it from the water. The broad shoulders and powerful tail passive while Jeff held him in that position, after a few pictures, we released the fish back into the dark water to make another anglers day.
We continued along the bank when another fish attacked the fly, this time it was a trout, not a big one but two thirds of the way to an inshore slam (catching the three game fish available in inshore waters in a day). After this, Jeff said he knew a spot close by where we could maybe find a flounder to complete the slam. By this time, darkness was closing in and we ended up fishing well past dark but could not get a flounder to complete my first slam but we did catch another small redfish, not bad for one evening of fly-fishing.
We made up for getting skunked the last couple times Jeff and I fished together and once again I appreciated how hard Jeff worked not only to get a redfish but then to try and complete my first inshore slam. I could not have asked for a better way to end my vacation and now I have another reason to visit Florida again, I simply must get that slam.